When in a restaurant, I have come to expect that I have to send my food back although somehow, it always seems to make me the one at fault; that if I didn't special order it, everybody wouldn't have to wait until I got my food right before we could go on our way.
I admit that my brand of dairy phobia is quite weird and has so many loopholes in it that my friends have given up trying to understand what it is that I will and won't eat. Maybe one of these days I will write a definitive list to get people off my back. It could become the rider to my contract whenever I am invited to grace a dinner party with my celebrity.
I hate going to dinner parties. I hate having to discuss with the host my food eccentricities. I often avoid it entirely. Instead, I would eat before going to a dinner party expecting that I cannot eat anything. At some point in the evening, I often have the urge to shout "Look! Is that Hugh Jackman?" so I can shovel the uneaten food into a baggie while everyone is distracted.
In people's eyes, I am Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, the kind of high maintenance guy who thinks he's low maintenance; that I am making things difficult for people because I can. Sure, sometimes I may not offer my preferred seat on the bus to the infirm or elderly, but mostly I am as easy-going as your wallet and the trick you had last night.
Besides, I don't think asking for no cheese is that hard considering other people ask for things like peanuts, shellfish or cilantro to be withheld. I mean, talk about high maintenance! Sheesh! Who asks for no cilantro? Amish people?
Brian and I went to get bagel sandwiches at Einstein's. His was a bacon and cheddar breakfast bagel. Mine was a Santa Fe bagel, a sandwich with turkey sausage, salsa, pepper jack cheese and jalapeno cream cheese. I'm sure you can figure out which of these ingredients I don't want.
Now, when I order food, I never toss out "no milk, please" or "no sour cream" or "dry toast" nonchalantly and giggle afterwards. I look deeply into the person's eyes, and say the words slowly and solemnly, with proper gravity. I say it very much like the perpetually sun-burned Phil Keoghan on The Amazing Race:
"Paul and Brian. *suspenseful pause* You are the last team to arrive. *regretful pause* You have been eliminated."
Ten minutes later, we get our food and one look at my sandwich and I see that the bagel is slathered with some kind of orange colored cream cheese which smelled vile. I took the sandwich back to the guy and said, "I didn't want cheese." He frowned and said, "You didn't say cream cheese."
What if I said I didn't want meat? Would he say, "Duh, you didn't say 'turkey'."
Back at our table, I bitched while we waited another ten minutes for my new sandwich. Brian said, "You give people too much credit. Most people don't think of cream cheese as cheese."
"Really?" I said, "I thought the word 'cheese' sorta gave it away."
I ranted on. "I mean, people should pay attention more! What does it take to make a sandwich? Bread. Condiment. Condiment. Vegetable! Filling!! Bread!!! We're not inventing a cure for yeast infection!"
"Chill out," said Brian. "You'll get your sandwich soon."
"It took ten minutes to make that first sandwich. That's ten minutes of my life that I will never get back. I could have won the lottery in those ten minutes!"
"Oh," Brian smiled, "Somebody's gonna give you a winning lottery ticket?"
"No, but I could have walked out of here, found a lottery ticket that somebody dropped and won a million dollars!" I said, "But now, all I will have is a bagel sandwich that the guy probably added his 'special ingredient' to. I want my goddamn ten minutes back!"
I coulda been a contendah! I coulda had a meeellion dollars!
I cursed fate and I cursed my dairy phobia. I cursed my fucking cheeseless Santa Fe bagel sandwich, which tasted like so much cardboard in my mouth.